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Football Looks Ahead To Challenge Of Army

Bryant Shirreffs and Brendan Vechery

Sept. 8, 2015

STORRS, Conn. - The University of Connecticut football team continues its season this Saturday when it plays host to Army at noon at Pratt & Whitney Stadium at Rentschler Field. UConn brings a 1-0 record into the game after defeating Villanova in its opener by a 20-15 count while Army is 0-1 with a loss to Fordham.

The game will be televised nationally by CBS Sports Network and heard on the UConn IMG Sports Radio Network.

Saturday's game will be the seventh meeting between UConn and Army and the Huskies lead the series by a 4-2 count and have won four of the past five meetings in the series.

Last season on November 8, 2015, the Huskies fell to Army by a 35-21 score at Yankee Stadium. Army led 21-7 after three quarters and hung on for the win. The teams traded fourth quarters TDs to make it 28-14 and Noel Thomas had a one-yard TD reception to make it 28-21 with 2:06 to go. UConn then recovered the onside kick and marched all the way to the Army six-yard link but an 99-yard interception TD return by the Black Knights dashed the Husky hopes.

To purchase tickets for the game, CLICK HERE.

For a look at the UConn Media Notes, CLICK HERE.

Tuesday was Media Day in Storrs and here are quotes, video and a Twitter roundup of the day.

UConn Head Coach Bob Diaco

"Welcome everyone, thanks for coming. Week two for the team, it's exciting to start another week of preparation for another opponent. At the beginning of the week here, as we get going, the guys seem very excited to get back to playing, and playing football, and being together. Not that the group didn't enjoy their time off, but it seemed like they felt a lot like I did, like we did, that we were very anxious to get back together and be together as a football family. So that's exciting.

"The team feels good, post-game one, in terms of physically. They're where they were before the game, if not even just maybe a little bit healthier, having shaken off all the camp legs. I think our sports performance team did a fantastic job of managing that piece of the camp, so they were healthy leading into game one, and I would imagine they feel even better now. Mentally, frame of mind, emotionally, it was great to win. It helps the week. It helps the energy and the building. It helps with focus, at least at the point that we're at now in our program, it helps with focus. I would imagine, like me and everybody else, it should energize the group to find even a little bit more that they can do to give, being that it's so worth it to even make more of an investment once you get the chance to see the payoff.

"So I'm pleased with individual performances from week one, pleased with Bryant (Shirreffs) at quarterback. He's making some good reads, and for the most part not putting the ball in jeopardy, getting us in and out of plays, working with (Brandon) Vechery, who's another player to mention. I thought he did a fantastic job under a challenging circumstance, with a strong nose guard right on his nose. I was pleased with that aspect, not having any CQ, center-quarterback, exchange issues. So that was very positive. It felt like, outside of Tommy (Myers,) that has been well documented, I felt that Ron (Johnson) ran hard. I felt that Noel (Thomas) took advantage of his opportunities like we though he would, and those should continue to increase. And with the overall offensive line, to end the game with a first down, and have the opportunity to kill the clock is a special moment for them. Also a fourth down and short to keep the drive alive is a special moment for them, really great things and executed well. On defense, I felt like Graham (Stewart), along with Luke Carrezola was pretty widely documented that he had an outstanding game and he did, but I thought Graham Stewart played really well along with Kenton (Adeyemi) and Andrew Adams. I thought both safeties played really well and didn't disappoint. That's a pretty good recap of game one, and as we begin our next preparation, it's exciting, Army. Be this a year ago, in Yankee Stadium, we're excited to see basically a year's worth of work and investment and what that is going to look like and what kinds of results and dividends that investment will pay off."

On the areas the team could improve on form last game: "We need to be sure that the team plays in a way that represents our culture, which toughness, that is tough gentlemen. It's a culture of composure and self-control. So that's an area that needs to improve in terms of all the jaw-jacking and loss of self-control. It's not what we do. It's not who we are. It's not who we're going to be. It's unacceptable in anyway. I'm looking forward to that improvement. It won't be tolerated. Any other little areas and errors that we're working on, fit issues, high progression, those are all areas to get cleaned up in all three phases, specifically the kick-off cover team. We need better performance there. Those players need to make more of an impact, specifically what we would call L-forward over to our forward. It really is about four players in the guts of the cover team that need to all pick it up. Coaches need to do a better job of articulating what we would like that to look like to them. The other performance I thought was just exceptional was Justin Wain. So those would be some areas of correction."

On the specific challenges the Army offense will bring: "Yeah three options. Spread teams try to do it as you saw in game one, and it will be the Hallmark of a few teams that we play. They are attacking the inside of the ally with force on a lot of downs, but the academies are experts at it. They operate at a level and with speed that you haven't seen until the game starts. There's no way to simulate it. You can try, but it's a B or less effort, in most cases it's like a C or D effort, in terms of trying to simulate it. Those are a couple of the challenges that they pose, which also enforces the team to focus more on that from a time frame standpoint and then you have less articulation, which doesn't help the other two phases. The defense needs it, but the offense needs to articulate, and special teams needs time."

On the Army defense: "Sound, tough guys up front. There's a good amount of guys who played in our game a year ago and have a lot of experience. They have a couple of inside linebackers that are really strong players. They have returned a couple secondary guys that are big in the game. One was the difference in the game a year ago, #14 Chris Carnegie, a talented player. Then up front, they playa sound structure, they know what they're doing, they create some problems, because you don't necessarily know who the other rusher is until it's post-snap. That's a hallmark of that three-four system. Those are some challenges."

On Bryant Shirreff's leadership: "He is an excellent student. He's an A student, and that's not easy to do when you're also a football junkie. He's a coach mentality kind of guy. He's here studying on his own. He's thinking about the game. He's getting all the extra work in. That creates a situation where he leads by example. He doesn't have to be a real Ra-Ra guy. The things that he says when he says them are appropriate, and guys listen. They respect him. They respect his football IQ. They respect his work over here physically. They respect his work as part of the student body. He's a great teammate."

Tyler Samra, senior, offensive line

On the first win: "The first win is always better than the second, especially for the offense. There's still long way we have to go, but we feel more comfortable as a team and finishing teams off. Villanova is a great team to start off the season against. Being able to get the ball moving against them, it was pretty satisfying, but there's always more work to be done."

On being able to run the clock down and hold them off as an offensive line: "Obviously that is very important. We had four minutes left. We had to get a first down to win the game, and to have Ron (Johnson) get the ball and crush it down the field, there's no better feeling than that, finishing off the team like that."

On how the offensive line played overall: "As a unit, we all played very well. We came a long way from last year obviously, but like I said before we have a long way to go, but everyone is improving. Everyone is determined to give their best every day in practice so we can improve the offensive line, which was a struggle last year. We all know our role and what we need to accomplish to get our team to win games."

The Last Meeting
November 8, 2014
Yankee Stadium, Bronx, N.Y.
UConn Drops Close Game To Army, 35-21
UConn made a late run to trim Army's lead to seven, but couldn't capitalize and fell to the Black Knights 35-21 on Saturday.